Project Awards Summary, 2020-21

Business, Economics, Law, and Policy

Long-run Environmental Quality and Human Capital Formation: Experimental evidence from schools in Delhi

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Amir Jina, Assistant Professor, Harris School of Public Policy, The University of Chicago
  • Koichiro Ito, Associate Professor, Harris School of Public Policy, The University of Chicago

An existing body of research has linked bad air pollution days to negative outcomes on health, learning, and sentiments in the short-run. However, due to the impossibility of assigning long-term air pollution exposure randomly, almost no evidence exists on the long-run or cumulative effects of air pollution. One of the most policy-relevant long-run impacts is a potential negative effect of air pollution on human capital, in particular, educational outcomes. Pollution may permanently lower learning outcomes in places of high air pollution, and therefore increasing the air quality in schools may have economically and socially important benefits. It is also important to measure the extent of this effect as there is also a possibility that students may adapt, through investments or behavioural changes, to the higher air pollution. One example would be if struggling students invest more time in studying to compensate for the negative pollution effects, thus diverting time from other activities.

This project, conducted in coordination with the National Independent Schools Association (NISA), seeks to experimentally identify the impact of air pollution on human capital formation by running a field experiment in which there will be randomize placement of HEPA-grade air purifiers in primary schools and measurement of short- and long-run educational outcomes, as well as avoidance or compensatory behaviour.

The key aim of the proposal is to engage the school principals and administrators as the experiment is scaled up from a pilot to full implementation.  The research is timely, as urban Indians continue to discuss the consequences of low environmental quality in the aftermath of the 2019 pollution spikes, which saw schools closed for 5 days or more across the whole of the city.

Events on Improving Life in India’s Slums

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Anup Malani, Lee and Brena Freeman Professor of Law, The University of Chicago Law School
  • Adam Chilton, Assistant Professor of Law and Walter Mander Research Scholar, The University of Chicago Law School
  • Ajay Shah, Professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy
  • Anita Patil-Deshmukh, Executive Director, Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action and Research (PUKAR)

Since early 2017 the organisers of this project have been conducting an ongoing research project on India’s slums and fostering collaboration between the University of Chicago and Indian academics and practitioners. The project has involved building field sites in 24 slums across 7 cities (Mumbai, Pune, Mysore, Bangalore, Hyderabad, New Delhi, and Jaipur) and supplemental ethnographic work in four other cities (Bhubaneswar, Lucknow, Patna, and Ahmedabad) across India. The goal of the project is to understand several major questions about slums: why they emerge, how they are governed, what life is like in them, and how they can be improved.

The current project builds on past efforts to engage in policy discussions about urban poverty and also aims to  reach out to new communities by (i) organising a conference that will bring together high-level government officials, policymakers, thought leaders from think tanks and universities to discuss specific reforms that could be implemented to improve the lives of the urban poor (ii) host screenings of the documentary that is being produced on slums in three cities to raise awareness of life in slums in India, highlight the research, and ensure that the residents of the communities in which the documentary was filmed have an opportunity to view it.


Culture, Society, Religion and the Arts

Archiving Sources for the History of the "Modern Bengali Song”

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College, Department of History, The University of Chicago
  • Laura Ring, Librarian for Southern Asia & Anthropology, The University of Chicago Library
  • Jayanta Sengupta, Director, Victoria Memorial Hall

The musical genre called “adhunik Bangla gaan” or the “modern Bengali song” is a critical part of the history of modernity in Bengal and refers to a unique category of “modern” songs that emerged in Bengal during the 1930s through 70s.

These songs played a very important in the cultural history of the Indian state of West Bengal, especially in the decades of the 1950s and 60s when the people of this state were still coming to terms with the consequences of the partition of India in 1947. Yet this history remains largely undocumented and dispersed in ephemeral sources. Though there have been systematic institutional efforts at archiving and digitizing Indian classical music thanks to its obvious cultural and political importance, there has been no concerted effort to preserve documents and other sources relating to the history of adhunik Bangla gaan apart from sporadic initiatives on the part of enthusiasts which have, more often than not, fallen through for lack of support

This project aims to identify, collect, archive and digitize published books, newspaper-articles, unpublished personal papers of lyricists, composers and performers, score-sheets of composers, and other forms of ephemera about artists and other creative heads who have contributed to adhunik Bangla gaan. Such archiving is a critical task of the present when scholars are beginning to take an interest in the history of this form of music.

The River Project

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Nancy Kawalek, Professor and Distinguished Fellow in the Arts, Science and Technology, Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, The University of Chicago
  • Supratik Guha, Professor of Molecular Engineering, Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, The University of Chicago; Senior Advisor, Physical Sciences and Engineering, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Surajit Sarkar, Associate Professor, Centre for Community Knowledge, Ambedkar University Delhi
  • Priyank Hirani, Team Lead, Water to Cloud Project, International Innovation Corps

Over half of India’s population lives within river basins and receives their water from the country’s major rivers. The rivers take up a substantial fraction of untreated industrial and human refuse that this rapidly developing population generates. Population pressure and limited water supply have triggered hydro-politics, “water-wars,” and physical conflicts. Also, seventy percent of surface water in India is not fit for consumption. The lack of a systematic approach in assessing water quality, coupled with cumbersome methods of laboratory testing that result in delayed, unsystematic, and limited data, creates a major hurdle to identifying a basis for action.

Over the past three years  Professor Supratik Guha’s team at the University of Chicago has been studying the water quality in one of the major rivers in India: Godavari (the second-longest river in India), and designing a reliable and robust Water-to-Cloud System (W2C) to monitor water quality and wastewater. This work involved sensing river water with a very high level of detail and mapping (both in space and time). The high-resolution data that was collected was superimposed on geospatial maps using a color-coded scale, making it easy to form visualizations that are straightforward to interpret as well as simple to assess various aspects of river water health. W2C has provided reliable and up-to-date data in easy to understand formats for timely decision-making for actions by various stakeholders, such as policymakers, researchers, sanitation inspectors, and the region’s inhabitants.

This project (with the assistance of Professor Guha’s colleagues and contacts in India) proposes to collect a series of oral histories from inhabitants in a few select areas along the Godavari, Yamuna, and Ganga Rivers. These personal narratives will then form the basis of a theatrical production that tells the human, behind-the scenes stories of the Water-to-Cloud System’s scientific findings. As a play, The River Project will help reach those who might not appreciate the importance of next-generation technologies such as W2C, and their benefit to society. With a story that moves and entertains people, the impact of what W2C has revealed – i.e., the urgent need to mitigate pollution, take corrective measures, and guide future action toward enhancing water quality – can increase exponentially.

The play will be developed using the Scientists, Technologists and Artists Generating Exploration (STAGE) lab’s work process, key aspects of which are directly inspired by the exploratory process of experimental science. STAGE is embedded within the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago. As with all of the collaborative projects developed through the STAGE lab, the goal of working with Professor Guha’s lab, and of The River Project, is to excite the public about science and technology through theatre that is relevant to the lives we lead – lives influenced by sophisticated technological and scientific advances at every turn.

The Hindoo/ Presidency College: A Global History

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Rochona Majumdar, Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, The University of Chicago
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College, Department of History, The University of Chicago
  • Laura Ring, Librarian for Southern Asia & Anthropology, The University of Chicago Library

The Hindoo College, established in 1817, was one of the first “Western” educational institutions in Asia. It was renamed as Presidency College in 1855. The college was established a few years after the Fort William college in Calcutta (1800) and the Haileybury College (1806) in England. As a “private “enterprise, the establishment of the college opens up questions about the role of philanthropy in the colony. The Hindoo College, however, was an “academic” institution from the beginning with no explicit brief to be of service to the Company raj and subsequently the British Empire. Its location in colonial era Calcutta made it a hub of myriad global influences.

The aim of this project is to analyze the history of the Hindoo and subsequently Presidency college as “global” history. By what processes did a world-class institution emerge in a newly established city, largely through private enterprise, under Company rule and continue its dominance in the Indian academic scene well into the postcolonial period? Who were the beneficiaries of its education? What was the history of pedagogy and disciplinarity in the College? The project spans years that historians have designated as the “Bengal Renaissance.”

The goal of this proposal is therefore to revisit the history of the Renaissance through a micro-history of an educational institution that was unarguably its nerve center. The end of the Renaissance in the 19th century merged Calcutta politics into the larger project of Indian nationalism. Professors and students of Presidency College played a central role in that movement. Our interest is to analyze the specific ways in which pedagogy in the college played a role in these processes.

By hosting workshops and meetings, the organizers aim to bring together key scholars across disciplines who will be invited to address specific aspects of the college’s disciplinary and pedagogic history and eventually explore the possibility of publishing two volumes out of the proceedings.

Principal organisers for this project from the University of Chicago include faculty members Rochona Majumdar (South Asian Languages and Civilizations),  Dipesh Chakrabarty (History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations) and Laura A. Ring (South Asia Bibliographer, Regenstein Library) who will be collaborating with Upal Chakrabarti and Sukanya  Sarbadhikary at Presidency University, Kolkata.

Shared Knowledge is Shared Power: A Participatory, Community-Based Training for Teachers and Parents in Guddadahalli Village

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Shipra Parikh, Assistant Instructional Professor, School of Social Service Administration, The University of Chicago
  • Mohua Nigudkar, Assistant Professor, Centre for Equity and Justice for Children and Families, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

With over half of its population below 25 years, India has more young people than any other country. Of those young people, 30% of India’s children are living in poverty (UNICEF, 2016). These statistics highlight both a need and opportunity – how to engage the most marginalized and under-resourced young people in their relationships with parents/teachers.

Most global research in India has focused on public health or economic investment, with a growing body of research addressing parenting styles and parent child relationships. However, less is known about how cultural narratives in communities contribute to children’s development, by teachers and parents.

The aim of this project is to (i) provide a therapeutic community space where parents and teachers can find mutual support, (ii) conduct focus groups in which parents and teachers will explore and identify cultural narratives around adultism in their ideas about child development, (iii) co-construct an anti-adultist training with parents and teachers, based on their identification of culturally relevant concerns.

Proposed participants in this project include teachers and parents who consent to participate in this study, who are part of the Society for Empowerment of Women and Children – Bangalore (SEWAC-B) school, which serves children 2-6 years old in the Guddadahalli area of Bengaluru city.

Transnational Literary Imaginaries: Underworld Lit

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Srikanth Reddy, Associate Professor, Department of English Language and Literature, The University of Chicago

The South Asian diaspora has produced new literary forms that seek to address the experience of migration, acculturation, and displacement in contemporary Anglophone writing. At the same time, the integration of literary arts into the Humanities curriculum has contributed to a widespread academicization of poetry in the United States and abroad.

The key aim of this project is to continue to build on prospects for curricular collaboration between the University of Chicago and  local Indian institutions in the fields of transnational literary studies and creative writing and develop a roadmap for institutionalized communities and pedagogies in creative writing that take into account the surge of interest in liberal arts education throughout Asia.

Through a series of meetings with relevant faculty members at Indian institutions, fundamental questions of pedagogy, translation, institutional engagement, and theoretical conceptualization will be explored such as -What would a globally-oriented creative writing program look like today? What is the place of cultural and national politics in such a classroom? How are international and regional publishing houses integrated into the field? How might such programs simultaneously shape and adapt to the academy and to the larger public sphere of media and publishing within a transnational context at the present time?

The objective is twofold: the long-term goal is to conceptualize possibilities for the development of creative writing as an institutionalized domain of knowledge within an emerging global context and to consider the most productive ways of shaping pedagogical discourse around literary arts within a transnational paradigm, re-imagining discussions around writing in relation to the developing creative writing programs in Asia. In addition to the curricular collaborations and initiatives a series of literary readings and public conversations on the topic of transnational literary imaginaries will also be organised with scholars, publishers, critics, teachers, and practitioners of the literary arts.

Professor Srikanth Reddy will be collaborating with key institutions in India such as Ashoka University, Shiv Nadar University, IIT-Delhi, and others.

From Mughal Rule to the Raj: Reassessing the Imperial Transition in South Asia

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Sunit Singh, Assistant Instructional Professor in The College and Affiliate Faculty in the Department of History, The University of Chicago

  • Steven Pincus, Thomas E. Donnelly Professor of British History, Department of History, The University of Chicago

How the British East India Company (EIC) came to establish a territorial empire in India remains a subject of considerable interest to scholars and non-specialists alike. Despite the continued interest in the subject, the prevailing understanding of Mughal successor formations, the Company’s conquest of Bengal and beyond, and the resulting transformation of the British Empire remains largely beholden to anachronistic and inadequate frameworks. Shaped in the aftermath of decolonization and overshadowed by the prospect of setting India on an independent, even autarkic, historical trajectory, the historiography set in place in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s tends to still speak in monolithic terms of “the Indians” and “the British” without paying much attention to politics and ideology.

The key aim of this proposal is to re-examine the early modern formation of empire in India by interrogating the notion that the such an autocratic and illiberal imperium as was eventually erected by the East India Company in India could have taken shape without serious debate, without a politics, and to suggest that the politics in question can ultimately be understood as neither indigenous nor European.

Through a conference held at the Center in Delhi the organisers aim to strengthen institutional collaborations with leading a number of scholars and historians, particularly in and around Delhi (Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi University, and Jawaharlal Nehru University) as well as in other parts of India.


Science, Energy, Medicine, and Public Health

Annual Symposium on Otolaryngology Updates

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Nishant Agrawal, Professor, Department of Surgery, The University of Chicago
  • Vipin Arora, Professor, College of Medical Sciences, The University of Delhi

In India and other developing countries, the incidence of Head and neck cancer (HNC) is significantly higher, comprising approximately 20% of all cancers with overall survival at around 25%. Indian studies show tobacco, alcohol, long-term exposure to indoor air pollution, spicy food, and nonvegetarian diet as risk factors for laryngeal cancer, but a wide regional variation in the incidence (Bobdey 2015). In these regions, this low survival outcome is affected by many factors, including access to care, availability, and affordability of cutting-edge treatments, barriers to care [technological, financial], and limited health infrastructure. Further research to better understand the role of causative factors and the genetic alterations they trigger would allow us to develop platforms for better diagnostic tools, improved therapeutic regimen and prevention programs.

The objective of this proposal is to host a symposium on Otolaryngology Head and Neck Cancers in collaboration with leading Indian and international clinical and research scientists and establish collaborations, disseminate knowledge, and promote research.
The aim of the symposium is to bring together multi-institutional speakers and experts so that the attendees will benefit from the exchange of ideas, receive updates on recent advances in the field and learn from leaders in their respective fields. The symposium will include lectures, panel discussions, debate sessions and breakout sessions for faculty and attendees to meet with experts in the field.

Advancing Trauma Care in India Through a Combination of Surgical and Minimally Invasive Interventional Therapies

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Osman Ahmed, Assistant Professor, Department of Radiology, The University of Chicago
  • Thuong Van Ha, Professor, Department of Radiology, The University of Chicago
  • Jeffrey Leef, Associate Professor, Department of Radiology, The University of Chicago
  • Jennifer Cone, Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, The University of Chicago
  • Priya Prakash, Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, The University of Chicago

Traumatic injuries are a major societal problem in India, with injuries and deaths related to traffic accidents ranking highest in the world and accounting for up to 18% of all deaths in the country. Additionally, 58% of all trauma deaths have previously been reported to be avoidable with haemorrhage (i.e. bleeding) as the leading of preventable death. This is in part due to the absence of integrated and organized trauma systems, both at the pre-hospital and hospital levels. Furthermore, standardized training in haemorrhage control is not routine among healthcare providers, though management of external haemorrhage is 1 of 9 clinical capabilities for hospital-based trauma care required by the World Health Organization.

The aim of this proposal is to strengthen the delivery of trauma care in India and reduce in-hospital mortality through hospital-based training programs focused on innovative approaches to haemorrhage control. The UChicago PIs will work in close collaboration with the Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Center and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, in New Delhi.

Given the leading role of Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Center (JPNATC) to trauma and critical care in India this proposal seeks to host workshops and meetings in partnership with JPNATC to identify fundamental initiatives to advance trauma care and training in the nation, specifically focusing on approaches to haemorrhage control. The workshop will combine lectures and panel discussions to optimize and facilitate the exchange of ideas with respect towards resource availability and allocation, operative management pathways, and utilizing diagnostic imaging modalities and minimally invasive techniques in haemorrhage control. Additionally, discussions on best practice of external haemorrhage control in a resource constrained environment will also be initiated. An integral part of the discussions will be performing a needs assessment for trauma care within the region and developing a framework for continued collaboration and improvements to care.

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Address the Global Burden of Disease

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Seeba Anam, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, The University of Chicago
  • Emil Coccaro, Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, The University of Chicago
  • Andrea King, Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, The University of Chicago
  • Shona Vas, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, The University of Chicago
  • Paralikar Vasudeo Pralhad, Head, Psychiatry Unit, King Edward Memorial Hospital
  • Mitchell Weiss, Professor Emeritus, Department of Health and Epidemiology, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute
  • Mrinmoyi Kulkarni, Associate Professor, IIT Bombay

The aims of this proposal focus on establishing initial collaborative efforts with peer academic institutions in South Asia to facilitate future projects in the domains of psychiatric research, mental/behavioural education and training, as well as scholarship regarding implementation of clinical care in diverse settings. Given the progressive impact of mental/behavioural illness in the global context, partnering with institutions serving Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC), will advance bidirectional knowledge regarding the priority areas of Depression, Suicidality/Aggression, Substance Use Disorders, and Trauma which have been identified by the WHO as significant contributors to the Global Burden of Disease.

One of the primary goals will be to outline collaborative research programs focused on improved prevention and mental health/behavioral interventions in a culturally sensitive context and reduce the disparities across racial ethnic subgroups in prevalence, disease burden, and quality of life. Another key goal is to facilitate the exchange of ideas regarding infrastructure of mental/behavioral health education models and training curricula across medical and psychological disciplines.

Utilizing the framework of a two-day interactive mental health workshops, faculty from the University of Chicago Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience will  meet with leading mental health professionals in South Asia engaged in research, educational scholarship, and evidence-based clinical practice to establish collaborative relationships and facilitate a bidirectional exchange of ideas towards the development of innovative, interdisciplinary approaches to common mental health problems contributing to the global burden of disease in high-income as well as middle and low income countries.

Exploring the Health Humanities: Expanding the Scope and Practice of Graphic Medicine

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Brian Callender, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, The University of Chicago
  • MK Czerwiec, RN, MA, Founder, GraphicMedicine.org
  • Upreet Dhaliwal, Former Professor, HOD Opthalmology and Dean, College of Medicine, The University of Delhi

Graphic medicine is an emerging field within the health humanities. Defined as the intersection of comics and the discourse on illness, health, disability, and healthcare, graphic medicine leverages the unique properties of comics to help us understand the illness experience, reflect on what it means to receive and provide healthcare, offer critical assessment of healthcare delivery, and improve patient education.

This project builds on the health humanities collaborations between the Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence at the University of Chicago and the Medical Humanities Group at University College of Medical Sciences (Delhi), which began in 2015, by providing a broad introduction to graphic medicine and the ways in which it can be utilized in medical education and healthcare practice, including linkages to the previous work on disability, shared-decision making, and clinical ethics.

  • By hosting a multi day conference in India, the project will focus on the key concepts of graphic medicine, including its history, philosophical and conceptual foundations, and most importantly, its practical applications. The pedagogy for this conference will be multimodal consisting of didactic lectures, interactive workshops, reading groups, and creative exercises. Participants will be provided with materials and resources about conducting workshops, developing curricula, and teaching within graphic medicine. The follow-up conference in Chicago will focus on attending and participating in the annual graphic medicine conference in summer 2021.

Implementation of a Comprehensive Care Program to Strengthen Continuity of Care for Patients with Complex Medical Needs

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Pooja Gala, Clinical Associate, Department of Medicine, The University of Chicago
  • David Meltzer, Fanny L. Pritzker Professor of Medicine, Economics, and Public Policy, Department of Medicine, The University of Chicago
  • Veena Sriram, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Medicine, The University of Chicago
  • Shashikiran Umakanth, Professor and Head of Medicine, Department of General Medicine, Dr. TMA Pai Hospital, Manipal Academy of Higher Education
  • Kirthinath Ballal, Assistant Professor, Department of Community Medicine, Dr. TMA Pai Hospital, Manipal Academy of Higher Education

Rising chronic illness and expansions in insurance coverage are leading to increased health care consumption in India. Hospitalized patients account for a large fraction of health care spending and poor outcomes. Difficulties in coordinating inpatient and outpatient care are an important barrier to providing quality, cost-effective care. A needs assessment of 150 patients and 21 providers conducted at Dr. TMA Pai Hospital, Udupi (TMAPH) under the Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) highlighted care fragmentation and gaps in continuity of care and care coordination.

To address these problems in the U.S., the University of Chicago has developed and tested the Comprehensive Care Program (CCP), which promotes continuity of care by providing patients with a Comprehensive Care Physician who will care for them in and out of the hospital. MAHE and TMAPH are now working with UC to determine whether a CCP model can improve patient outcomes and reduce costly hospitalizations in their setting.

The goal of this project is to  improve continuity of care and to strengthen coordination between inpatient and outpatient care for medically complex patients at TMAPH; to explore the potential to serve as a model for quality improvements in other healthcare settings in India; to share lessons and best practices and explore the establishment of a learning collaborative by organising an international symposiums of institutions implementing CCP models.

Status of Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health in Uttar Pradesh, India: Findings and Lessons Learned from the Kissa Kahani Project

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Melissa Gilliam, Ellen H. Block Professor of Health Justice, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The University of Chicago
  • Alicia Menendez, Research Associate (Associate Professor), Harris School of Public Policy and Department of Economics, The University of Chicago
  • Suchi Bansal, Senior Researcher, The Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3), The University of Chicago

The Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3) is a dynamic organization at the University of Chicago whose research draws from medicine, humanities, social science, art, and design to develop interventions that address the structures and systems that impact adolescent sexual and reproductive health (SRH). In 2015, Ci3 launched Kissa Kahani with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Using narrative research methods to understand the experiences of young people living in urban slums of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, Kissa Kahani discovered that gender inequalities were manifested through limited mobility, inadequate health information, early marriage, and school dropout. These findings have important implications for both policy work and implementation of adolescent SRH programs in India.

The main aim of this project is to disseminate research findings from Kissa Kahani and foster meaningful discussion among key actors (project partners in India, members of the Indian donor community, academia, non-governmental organizations, etc)  in India who can effect change.

Nearly one-third of India’s population is under the age of twenty- five. The recently launched  Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakaram (RKSK) program by the Government of India provides the right context to address the needs of this young population, but data on the health needs of Indian adolescents, particularly those who are unmarried, is scarce. Findings from Kissa Kahani can help fill information gaps in adolescent SRH and support the successful implementation of the RKSK agenda.

The organisers will be hosting a workshop which will provide an opportunity for diverse adolescent SRH practitioners and scholars in India to convene in a central location and to exchange knowledge and insights about SRH and gender issues facing young people in UP and in India at large. This event will also help University of Chicago connect with India-based scholars and highlight its leadership in innovative research for advancing adolescent SRH in India and other countries. It will benefit University of Chicago scholars as well as colleagues from diverse adolescent SRH-focused projects and organizations in India by helping to strengthen their knowledge of narrative-based methods; by developing a collaborative network of public health stakeholders in India who can learn from and build on each other’s efforts; and by furthering international dialogue on the evidence, the pressing health challenges, and the powerful opportunities for social change surfaced by Kissa Kahani.

Developing the Pediatric Minimal Invasive Surgery Program in India and Southeast Asia (Phase II)

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Mohan Gundeti, Professor of Surgery, Pediatrics, and Obstetrics/Gynecology, Department of Surgery, The University of Chicago
  • Ashish Shrestha, Department of Neonatal & Pediatric Surgery, Grande International Hospital
  • Kumaravel S, Head of Department, Pediatric Surgery, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education
  • Ravi Kanojia, Associate Professor, Pediatric Surgery, Chandigarh Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education

India is the world’s only country where 30% of the population is under 21 years of age. This large population will eventually form the backbone of the country’s wealth and contribute to national GDP. Complex congenital urological anomalies are highly prevalent, affecting at least one out of every hundred newborns. If these newborns have access to optimal surgical care and reconstructive surgery, they can resume normal health.

The morbidity of the open surgery has a huge impact not only on the patient’s quality of life, but also emotionally on the family, and economically on the nation. Minimal Invasive surgery in the form of Laparoscopy and Robotics helps to alleviate the morbidity of open surgeries in the form of reduced hospital stay, less pain, and early return to normal activity. Minimal Invasive surgery helps both children and their families. However currently such advanced care is provided at very few teaching institutions in India due to lack of expertise.

In Phase I of this project, live surgical robotic laparoscopic and open surgical demonstrations along with workshops were conducted at various government institutions across the country by Dr. Mohan S. Gundeti.  He also delivered  key note lectures at National Association of Pediatric Surgeons and South Indian regional meeting of Urological Surgeons and these activities benefited overall more than 1500 surgeons in India and some of the south east Asian countries (through live webcast). 

In Phase II, the surgical workshops will be held in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as well to develop and foster long term collaborative relations with local surgeons to for exchange of knowledge and skills in paediatric urology specialty to take care of children with urological anomalies properly.

Dementia in India: State of the Field and Plans for Future Research

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Jayant Pinto, Professor, Department of Surgery, The University of Chicago
  • Suma Nair, Professor & Head, Community Medicine, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal Academy of Higher Education
  • Vijayalakshmi Ravindranath, Professor, Centre for Neuroscience, IISER Bengaluru
  • Shilpy Sharma, Assistant Professor, Department of Biotechnology, Savitribai Phule University of Pune

Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias (ADRD) represent a worldwide public health problem, one that is growing in aging societies, including India. There are approximately 4 million people who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias (ADRD) in India, which is 10% of all patients worldwide, and rural areas where the vast majority of Indians live have an estimated 10.6% prevalence. Despite this impact, there is little known about risk factors for dementia in India. This is a crucial barrier since a search for modifiable risk factors is critical in the face of no currently available effective treatment,

This project aims to develop fruitful, productive, and interdisciplinary research in the dementia field by innovative partnerships with community and  local universities, to build local capacity, which would greatly assist to combat this issue in India and Asia more broadly.

Through a two day conference at the Center in Delhi, the organisers aim to strengthen ties between Indian and Chicago scientists with common interests in neurosensory research; epidemiology, environmental health, and aging and review current knowledge about risk factors for sensory and cognitive impairment in India, discuss faculty interests and expertise, and identify opportunities for joint research.

Effects of Climate Change on Himalayan Biodiversity

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Trevor Price, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolution, The University of Chicago
  • Maharaj Pandit, Professor, Department of Environmental Studies, The University of Delhi
  • Kumar Manish, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Studies, The University of Delhi
  • Dhananjai Mohan, Director, Wildlife Institute of India

The Himalayan region is experiencing an excessive rate of warming. Indeed, sparse climate station records from the region suggest this area is already more than 1.5oC over pre-industrial levels. Rising temperatures have resulted in varied impacts on Himalayan ecosystems, but the documentation of effects on biodiversity is limited, scattered and not synthesized.

This project complements the work being conducted by Professor Trevor Price in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India, which has an MOU with the University of Chicago to address patterns of biodiversity in the Himalaya, now in its 8th year. That has resulted in several student exchanges, and multiple jointly authored papers on Himalayan biodiversity.

This project proposes to collate what is known about effects of climate change on biodiversity in the Himalaya by bringing together researchers and scientists for a conference. The conference will provide a platform for active cooperation between scientists, graduate students and post-docs to suggest some practical working solutions for approaches to mitigate the effect of climate change in the region. The conference will also enable learning across diverse fields of inquiry e.g. GIS and remote sensing, hydrological and glacier changes, on-ground censuses of elevation changes in plant diversity, changes in the time of reproduction of birds, predictions of elevation shifts in plants and animals under various future climate scenarios, delineating conservation priorities in current and future climate scenarios, impact of land-use changes on the regional climate etc. It will also include a training sessions held at the University of Delhi which will introduce the use of GIS and climate models to assess impacts of future climate change on species distributions, and a description of new methods for linking species distributions to climate.

The main goal of the project is to study effects of climate change on Himalayan biodiversity as far as it is known at present, understand how changes in the climate in the past has affected Himalayan biodiversity, to consider predictions for biodiversity under different climate change scenarios, to identify important avenues for future feasible research, and outline reasonable routes and ways to lessen impacts, summarizing costs and benefits. This will lead to a much better understanding of the current status and future prospects of Himalayan biodiversity, and draw attention to possible amelioration.

Integrative Research on Human Evolution and Reconstruction of the Past in India

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • (PI) Maanasa Raghavan, Assistant Professor, Department of Human Genetics, The University of Chicago
  • Niraj Rai, Scientist C, Ancient DNA, Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences

In 2019, a first-of-its-kind workshop was held in India, bringing together archaeologists and scientists to brainstorm how fields such as genetics can add new dimensions to the reconstruction of the human past in this region. Human evolution is a complex area of research that requires input from multi-proxies that often cross disciplinary boundaries. More recently, research in this area, primarily conducted in Europe and North America, has seen fruitful collaborations between archaeologists, historians, anthropologists, geneticists and evolutionary biologists, computational biologists, and even physicists and chemists. Together, they have provided comprehensive insights into cultural and biological evolution of our species.

The three-day meeting held in 2019 was hugely productive and sparked several discussions ranging from questions in archaeology that would benefit from scientific analyses, to sustainable sampling methods, and collaborative potential between some of our research group.

The aim of this project is to hold a follow up workshop  to include a training component by inviting students in addition to Principal Investigators  so that the next generation of researchers are exposed to the state-of-the-art in archaeological sciences early on and can begin to integrate these scientific tools in their own research to leverage more information from their samples.  Accordingly, the second workshop will have increased focus on the scientific tools, their applications and help participants understand scientific theory, sampling practices, data generation protocols, and data analyses and interpretive scope of these dataset.

Testing Cord Blood Cells to Evaluate for Epigenetic Changes

Key Faculty & Collaborators:

  • Amittha Wickrema, Professor, Department of Medicine and Committee on Cancer Biology, The University of Chicago
  • Subhradip Karmakar, Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences

Gestational diabetes is a significant issue both in developing world and first world countries. Especially in India the number of babies born to diabetic mothers is higher than most other countries. Typically babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes have higher birth weights and meta-analysis data have found that these babies have a much higher incidence of leukaemia. Most recent studies have also found that persistent exposure of blood stem cells to high glucose alters their function. Furthermore, since umbilical cord blood from babies with higher birth weights is routinely donated to cord blood banks around the world for the purpose of transplanting them to cancer patients, this practice may pose a leukaemia risk to the recipient.

The project will focus on assessing whether epigenetic alterations (changes in the ability of DNA to express genes) has occurred in the blood stem cells of newborn babies (isolated from umbilical cord blood) due to exposure to high levels of glucose during gestation as a result of gestational diabetes. The project will collect, store and test cord blood cells to evaluate for epigenetic changes and their function that are predictive of leukaemia. The samples from experimental and control groups will be collected and stored in India. Various testing of the samples will be performed at the University of Chicago. In conjunction with this project a symposium will be held at the Delhi Center that addresses significance of epigenetic alterations in development of leukaemia and best practices in the field of cellular therapy to initiate the collaborative partnership between the groups in India and the University of Chicago. The participants will include graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, faculty and research staff from All India Institute of Medical Sciences as well as other academic institutions.

Through this pilot study it is hoped that new collaborations will lead to an in-depth study related to this project and establishment of bilateral ties.